A hateful anti-trans radio ad brought flashbacks to dark moments and places — but also motivation

Jam Hammond stands for a portrait on Feb. 22, 2023, in downtown Pittsburgh. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

As a prominent Black transgender man, hate on the airwaves feels a lot like a threat.

First-person essay by James “Jam” Hammond

At 5:33 p.m. on October 17, I felt a headache coming on. I had worked a full Monday, my ride was stuck at work and it could be hours until I could get a ride out of Downtown. I decided to make a rare exception to frugality and allow myself to use a ride-sharing app to get home before the headache worsened. When I got into the car outside of the City-County Building, the driver confirmed my name after some brief confusion and we headed off toward Brookline. 

I didn’t imagine that my ride home would include a journey back in time to some of the most frightening and formative moments of my youth as a transgender man.

Growing up in Newton, Massachusetts, in the 1990s and early 2000s, I didn’t see many examples of transmen in my community. I was lucky, however, to live where one of the first Gay-Straight Alliances [GSA] was born and adults tended to make efforts to understand things with which they were unfamiliar. 

Our GSA had an annual program called Transgender Bisexual Gay Lesbian Awareness Day [TBGLAD], which included discussions of issues across the LGBTQIA+ community. It was in one of these programs that I first knowingly saw another transgender man — we’ll call him Jerry. Getting to see Jerry who, like me, did not develop in a way that reflected his inner identity was transformational. It allowed me to understand what was possible for me. Not that I was sold on having his same body or voice or hair, but in seeing Jerry I realized that it was possible to become more myself.

Two years after first seeing Jerry, I started to seek out physical transition. Meeting Jerry allowed me to seek out more examples and discover that transmen exist in many physical forms, depending on what is right for the individual. Seeing the diversity of the trans experience gave me the confidence to seek out my own path.

My transition was on my own time and I worked with my parents to decide what was right for me at 16 versus 18 versus 25. Throughout that time, I was able to learn and grow in other ways. I completed my undergraduate degree and started to wonder about life in other parts of the country. When I was 26, I set out for Pittsburgh, hoping to get to know and serve a new community through social work and public service.

Back to that autumn evening commute. At first, the only unsettling thing about the ride was the fact that the driver had paused at my name. Did he recognize me from my work at the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, and as a Black and publicly trans man? If so, what sentiments did that stir?

As we headed down Ross Street and turned toward the Liberty Bridge, the radio played a familiar early 2000s Mariah Carey tune, which made me nostalgic.

Then an advertisement began to play. A familiar-sounding voice began to talk about “boys taking estrogen” and “girls growing facial hair.” I immediately went on alert. It was the same type of rhetoric that had followed me in my early transition.

Read entire story here

About Post Author


From the Web